Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ad Ventures

First of all, it appears the big winner in the Superbowl Ad race is the Doritos spot going by the name "House Rules." There are numerous surveys and research firms ranking the Superbowl spots based on various criteria, and trying to list them all here is far more copy and paste hell than I want to go through, but the overall ruling is that "House Rules" rules. From personal observation, it's the first one guys seem to be calling up on YouTube when re-watching the ads.

What's interesting about this spot is that it was not conceived in the usual ad agency way. It was a contest entry submitted by an ordinary human. Joelle De Jesus of Hollywood, won $25,000 in the Frito-Lay Crash the Superbowl contest where muggles of the ad world submitted their entries for a shot of fame and perhaps job offers from the Hogwarts of ad agencies. (I'm sorry to say Joelle's hometown makes me suspicious. Would anyone shooting their spot in, say, Butte, Montana have as much access to acting and technical talent?) No two-hour spit balling meetings around a huge table. No "running it up the flagpole." And no inter-office ass kissing. Just talent free to do what real talent does... create something special. The difference in the approach is as clear as the difference between the reactions to the "House Rules" spot compared to Charles Barkley hawking Taco Bell.

This, by no means, spells the end for traditional ad agencies. In fact, the American Idol method of getting spots produced has been around for a few years now, and it pays big dividends for the agency. Why pay major dollars to a creative team when we can run a contest and let Joe The Producer do our work for us and get a better product on the air? Ad agencies will be just fine. Copy writers and storyboard artists, on the other hand, should be nervous.
"This agency runs on ideas, mister. Original ideas. Now you've got two hours to create an insurance spokesman that looks like that damn gecko."

The other noteworthy event in advertising this week is the boycott of ABC stations issued by some Toyota dealers in some southeast states. The president of Southeast Toyota, Ed Sheehy, of Deerfield Beach, Florida, doesn't want to talk about it, of course, but apparently ABC News Nightline coverage of runaway Toyotas hurt his feelings so he's taking his ball and going home.

ABC affiliates affected by this boycott have responded by simply switching on the network feed and running the full-minute contrition/apology spots that ran a blitzkrieg throughout all the networks' prime time Monday. Apparently Toyota national would rather confront the issue than cry about Nightline.

Although the spot comes off a little contrite and without soul to me. We needed to see the face of Toyota. Somebody needs to look us in the eye and say these things the way Lee Iaccoca did in the '80's. Instead, Toyota seems to be running and hiding from the world. News reporters have been told "politely" to leave the dealership when looking for an interview. Uh, guys... that's your opportunity to put a positive spin on the issue, or at least reassure us. When I broached the subject to my local dealer, the manager turned and walked away, leaving me with a nervous salesman. Not cool.

Local car dealers are not accustomed to this kind of controversy, and their reactions have been, in my view, mostly immature and knee-jerk. But you can't put all the blame on them, as Toyota corporate hasn't been setting the best of examples. It took over two weeks since the first recall notice for an "urgent" memo to hit local TV stations for the one-minute apology spot while an agency scrambled to cram all the sappy production values they could muster into one spot. In the meantime, local TV stations were left with no choice but to continue airing "Buy a Toyota" spots already on the schedule as if nothing was wrong. In contrast, it would've taken about a day, maybe two, to shoot a local dealer looking straight into the camera saying, "We're going to fix this. We'll do what's right."

If this situation was a murder mystery novel, Ed Sheehy's reaction would have the detective looking deeper into his character, and the reader would be thinking, "What's he hiding?"

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